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This is a relatively unexplored section of Zimbabwe, but offers birders a wide variety of species. There are two prime birding destination in this area, Gonarezhou National Park and the Save' Valley Conservancy. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in this area and raptors, both large and small, are particularly prevalent.

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Gonarezhou National Park

Gonarezhou is the second largest National Park in Zimbabwe and covers an area of over 500 000ha. The southeast section which includes the Save'/Runde Junction offers some of the best birding in Zimbabwe. Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake-Eagle and Martial Eagle are all breeding residents. Several species of vulture including Lappet-faced Vulture also breed in the Park. Peregrine Falcon breed on the spectacular Chilojo Cliffs and Dickinson's Kestrel is common in the groves of Ilala Palms.

The area around the junction of the Save' and Runde rivers is the best place to look for Pel's Fishing-Owl and Southern Banded Snake-Eagle has also been recorded here. The massive Tambohata Pan, close to the junction attracts large numbers of waterbirds in the wet season. Lesser Jacana, Lesser Moorhen and Allen's Gallinule are some of the unusual species that are attracted to this pan. Brown-headed Parrot and Collared Palm-Thrush are two species that can be seen around the edge of the pan. Senegal Lapwing occur in the well-grazed areas and Mosque Swallow, Mottled Spinetail can be found around the many Baobab trees. In the riverine thickets look for Eastern Nicator, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Black-throated Wattle-eye, and the forest next to the school at the junction is home to Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Green Malkoha.

General
Accommodation is available at Zimbabwe Sun's Mahenye and Chilo Safari Lodges at the junction and includes game drives into the National Park with birding guides. These drives also take guests to the Chilojo Cliffs. Alternatively there are several camp sites in the National Park. The main camp site is at Chipinda Pools which is also the entrance gate to this section of the park. This area is accessible by sedan car, but to travel into the rest of the Park a 4x4 vehicle is essential. Remember that there are no supplies of any nature, including fuel, in the Park and everything must be carried with you. Standard Park Entry fees apply (US$10 per day for visitors plus an entry fee for each vehicle - ZW$50 for cars and ZW$100 for trucks and minibuses).

From Chiredzi take the Tanganda Road for 18km and turn right to Chipinda Pools. The entrance (down a gravel road) is a further 38km. To get to Mahenye and Chilo Safari lodges, continue along the Tanganda Road for 50km when you will reach the Jack Quinton Bridge over the Save river. Immediately after crossing the bridge turn right onto the gravel road (signposted to Mahenye and Chilo) for follow the road for a further 43km.

Zimbabwe Parks Website

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The Save' Valley Conservancy

The Save' Valley Conservancy was established in 1991 by a group of ranchers converting from unviable cattle production to wildlife. Fences were removed forming the Save' Valley Conservancy, almost a million acres, the largest private game sanctuary in Africa. Large numbers of animals including complete breeding herds of Elephant as well as black and white Rhino were moved into the area, and the improvements to the Conservancy has led to a massive increase in bird populations, particularly game birds and both Red Lark and Yellow-billed Oxpecker. Several luxury safari lodges as well as self-catering lodges have been built in the Conservancy to cater for all requirements. Senuko Safari Lodge caters particularly for birders and both Boulder Chat and Mocking Cliff-Chat breed around the chalets. A Bat Hawk nest close to the lodge has been occupied every year for the past five years, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see this unusual bird. Arnot's Chat, Meves's Starling and Racket-tailed Roller are common in the Mopane woodland. Both diurnal and nocturnal raptors are common and easily seen. Savuli Lodge in the centre of the Conservancy is a popular self catering facility and guests are able to walk and drive in the area in the company of game scouts. In total over 400 species of birds are found in this unique Conservancy.

General
From Harare drive to Chivu and just outside the town turn left onto the Gutu/Buffalo Range Road (145km). Turn right at the T-junction which runs into the Masvingo/Birchenough Bridge road (140km) and continue for a further 110km until you reach the north gate into the Conservancy (signposted Devuli Ranch Headquarters). Follow the road for 45km to Savuli Lodge or 90km to Senuko. Advance bookings are essential. Alternatively travel past Chiredzi for 12km and turn left into the road to Mkwasine Sugar Estate (35km). This then become gravel and the turnoff to Senuko is 20km down this road.

Derek Solomon 1997.



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